CHAMPCAR/CART: Driver Comments on Rio

Rio 400 What the drivers have to say about Rio Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes), on his success at Rio de Janeiro: "I am really looking forward to the Rio track. We led the race there in 1996, and finished second in '97. We hope...

Rio 400

What the drivers have to say about Rio

Greg Moore (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes), on his success at Rio de Janeiro: "I am really looking forward to the Rio track. We led the race there in 1996, and finished second in '97. We hope to be in a position to challenge for the win in '98. The Brazilian fans are great and very knowledgeable and it is an exciting place to visit."

Michael Andretti (Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Swift Ford), on the challenges presented by the Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway at Nelson Piquet International Raceway: "The course in Brazil is very unique because it is an oval, but you drive it like a road course. It's all left-hand corners, but you actually do some heavy braking and down-shifting at the end of each straightaway. It makes for a different challenge and I really like that. That is what this [FedEx Championship] series is all about tracks like Brazil, different tracks that make you be more versatile in your driving, and the team can be more versatile in its setup." On his finishing record at Brazil: "We were very strong in '96 and '97 right away. We had a car that was capable of winning the race, but we had a problem right from the green flag, so it was very disappointing. I think it is about time we won, and odds are we are going to do very well, since we haven't so far. We haven't had a finish there yet, so this is the year. Nineteen ninety-eight is the year we are going to finish, and hopefully, finish first." On CART's popularity in Brazil: "I really feel that CART racing has become more popular in Brazil than Formula One, which is incredible, because Formula One was so big in Brazil. Now, it's Champ Car racing and soccer. Those are their two biggest sports there, so it's pretty exciting that we're there."

Christian Fittipaldi (Kmart Swift Ford), on competing in his homeland this year after missing last year's Rio 400 due to a broken leg sustained in Australia: "It feels great to go back to my home country this year. Unfortunately, I missed the race last year because of the accident. This year, I'm really looking forward to it because of the fans. I'm very proud that I am Brazilian, and I want to do well at my home country. It's like Michael [Andretti] wanting to go well at Nazareth. I understand that feeling very, very well." On his success at the 1996 Rio 400: "The last time I raced in Rio was two years ago, and it was one of my best races. I had a pretty heavy accident on Saturday and I couldn't qualify. I missed out on qualifying and then I had to start dead last in the race and finished fifth. The car ran very goods and I really enjoyed the race. This year, hopefully, we won't have the same problems on Saturday and I hope we have a great race on Sunday." On demands on his time during the Rio 400: "I wouldn't say my whole family is going to come to the track, but pretty much a big portion of my family will be at the race. Believe it or not, the race in Rio is very difficult for us because there are a lot of sponsors, a lot of friends, and in general, a lot of people that we have to take care of. Passes to the race are never enough. If you give me 1,000 passes, I could use 2,000. If you give me 5,000, I could use 10,000. I love racing in Rio, but at the same time, I want the weekend to go by very quickly and have a good result at the end. I really enjoy the Monday after the race. A win would make Monday even better."

Gil De Ferran (Valvoline/Cummins Special Reynard Honda), on the national pride the Brazilian people take in their drivers: "The success of Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and, of course, Ayrton Senna [all Formula One world champions] has been a source of great pride in Brazil. What each of them did helped to make racing more and more important. Children wanted to grow up to be like them. Companies were willing to support young talent with sponsorship. It's never easy, of course, but opportunities are there for young drivers who have the ability and desire."

Al Unser Jr. (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), on the necessity of scoring PPG Cup points at Rio de Janeiro: "I am really looking forward to the race in Rio. The atmosphere is upbeat and the fans really love open-wheel racing. Our goal is to put some points on the board this weekend, especially after the disappointing results in Long Beach and Nazareth. We just finished two days of testing [at Nazareth] and feel the Marlboro car should perform very well."

Andre Ribeiro (Marlboro Penske Mercedes), on memories of racing in Rio de Janeiro: "Rio is a very special race for me for many reasons. For sure, I have very good memories from winning the inaugural race in 1996. This was probably the best moment in my racing career. Plus, it's great to go home to race in Brazil, because the whole country gets involved in the race. There is a national excitement, and all this enthusiasm gives a positive energy to me and all the Brazilian drivers." On rebounding from missing the field at Nazareth: "I think the Marlboro car will perform very well here. We had a bad weekend at Nazareth, but we've done a lot of testing since the race and we were able to learn more about the car. Since everything is completely new on this year's car, we have a very steep learning curve, and we are in a constant state of development. I still think we haven't reached the full potential of the car." On his plans for the week prior to the race: "I will arrive in Sao Paulo on Sunday night and fly to Curitiba on Monday so that I can present checks to the charities involved with my "Race for Humanity." On Monday evening, I will appear on the show "Hebe," which is like a Brazilian "Oprah Winfrey." The last two times I was on the show, I won the following race, so hopefully, this will bring me some added good luck."

Paul Tracy (KOOL Reynard Honda), on last year's victory at Rio de Janeiro: "Rio was one of the more unusual wins of my career. I started fifth, but spun on an early restart and had to come back from 10th place, all the while saving fuel. I knew Bobby [Rahal] was tight on fuel, so I kept the pressure on. I couldn't believe my luck when he slowed. We didn't have much fuel left, but we had enough to finish, and that's all that mattered." On the importance of pit strategy at Rio de Janeiro: "To win this race, there's no question the Team KOOL Green crew must come through with some quick pit stops. It's so competitive, there's probably 10 different guys who can win this race, and naturally, I think I'm one of them. But we've got to have a perfect race to do it. We've got a good handle on getting the car setup right, and I'm confident we can race up front again, we just need to work on our pit stops."

Dario Franchitti (KOOL Reynard Honda), on his first year at Team KOOL Green: "I'm quite pleased with the way things are going this year at Team KOOL Green. I feel like we're getting stronger as a team with every session in the car. We've had some good results this year, but I won't feel like we've really accomplished anything until I get that first win. And winning at Rio in the homeland of Ayrton Senna, my racing hero that would be the best!"

Tony Kanaan (LCI Reynard Honda), on racing in his homeland: "For sure, this race means a lot. I haven't raced in Brazil since 1992 in the Formula Chevrolet championship. All of my family and friends will be there. I am very excited to go back, but honestly, I am very tense as well. On one hand, I think this will be the most difficult race in my life. On the other, I can't wait to go there. I attended the inaugural race in 1996, which Tasman [Motorsports Group] won with Andre Ribeiro. It is a unique circuit. The track is an oval, but it is similar to a road course as well, and you need to shift gears."

Richie Hearn (Budweiser/Ralphs Swift Ford), on his enjoyment of the Brazilian circuit: "It's a great track to race on. It's probably one of the better tracks we will go to this season. Brazil has really long straightaways, and you have to brake and downshift for Turns One and Four. That's what makes it fun to race on. It's a bumpy track, so you have to have a good car. I think of it more as a road course that only has left turns than an oval. We had a good race there last year until we ran out of fuel. I think we'll do well there this year, too. We're slowly creeping up on the front half of the field. Hopefully, we'll take this good result [10th at Nazareth] and continue to build on it throughout the season."

Bobby Rahal (Miller Lite Reynard Ford), on the disappointment of last year's loss at Rio, when he ran out of fuel while in the lead with just over a lap remaining: "We knew it would be close on fuel. We stretched it as long as we possibly could. I was short-shifting, doing whatever I could. I started praying with about 10 laps to go. It just wasn't enough. It turned out we needed just one more gallon. It was terribly disappointing, because no one had anything for us that day. We dominated, and those days are rare in an ultra-competitive series like ours. If there's one positive, though, it's that last year's race proves we have a pretty good setup for this track. There is no doubt we can win there."

Bryan Herta (Shell Reynard Ford), on the challenges of the Rio oval: "It's a tough track to set up the car for. It's more like a fast road course than an oval. I think our runs here have shown, though that we have a pretty good handle on the track and adapt well to the conditions. With some luck, we'll contend again."

Patrick Carpentier (Player's/Indeck Reynard Mercedes), on building on the success he enjoyed at Nazareth, site of his first FedEx Championship Series career pole position: "I am looking forward to the race in Rio de Janeiro. We had a great weekend at Nazareth; we had a pole position with a very fast lap. My car was perfect for qualifying. We still have a bit of work to do for the race in the pit stops, but it is just experience. I think in Rio, if the car is as good and I do good pit stops, too, we will be very competitive."

Max Papis (MCI Reynard Toyota), on the challenges of racing at Rio de Janeiro: "It is going to be tough. We are going to have a lot of acceleration and we are still a little behind on the power. We have to look forward to St. Louis. Rio is not a race where we are going to look as brilliant as we looked here. The best results will be in Milwaukee for us this year. We can have good races in Rio and St. Louis, but we will do better at Milwaukee. At Milwaukee, we do not up- and down-shift."

Hiro Matsushita (Panasonic/Duskin Reynard Toyota), on his final appearance as a FedEx Championship Series driver: "I will do my best in Rio and I am looking forward to being there to drive for the Arciero-Wells team and Toyota."

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Michael Andretti , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Patrick Carpentier , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Richie Hearn , Ayrton Senna , Nelson Piquet , Emerson Fittipaldi , Andre Ribeiro , Greg Moore